Where to go, What to do <Highlights <Places <central andes

This huge national park protects a large area of páramo and forests on the eastern Andean slopes between Tungurahua to the north almost as far as Ingapirca to the south. It is a vast wilderness and not particularly easy to visit, with no marked trails or interpretation centres, despite being a UNESCO Heritage site.

To get to the volcanoes, lakes or paths in the park you have to arrange transport which travels along basic roads to connect the small isolated communities that live in the area. There are occasional guard posts. Entry to all national parks and reserves in Ecuador is now free for everybody.

Here is a guide to the main attractions:

• Volcán Tungurahua, which is currently too active to be climbed.

• Volcán Sangay, which takes a few days to trek to and is also highly active and dangerous to climb (access from Riobamba via Alao).

• Volcán El Altar, actually nine peaks around a crater lake, all of which are difficult to climb (access from Riobamba via Candelaria and a one-day trek).

• Lagunas de Atillo, stunning lakes in the páramo, located along the road which connects Guamote with Macas in the Oriente.

• Lagunas de Ozogoche, more páramo lakes, 36km from the Panamericana (turning at Tizin, just north of Alausí). Transportes Ozogoche operate buses which connect the community with Alausí or Guamote.

• El Placer thermal springs, on the way to Volcán Sangay.

• The Camino del Inca leads south from Achupallas, entering the boundaries of the park, passing Laguna Culebrillas and leaving again just as unobtrusively before it drops down to the ruins of Ingapirca.

If you want to visit the Atillo and Ozogoche lakes one option is to stay in Guamote where there is a nice little hostel called Inti Sisa, run as part of a charitable initiative to help the local community.


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